A home among the gum trees is just one way of going native.
Wild things may make your heart sing, but they won’t thrive without care or consideration in your garden.
Successful native gardening goes by the basic rules that exotics live by, too, like good soil preparation with organic material, selecting the right plant for the location and good drainage.
But natives will tolerate poor soils better than cultivates, are generally faster growing and so are useful for immediate privacy and to provide protection for slower growing, less hardy plants, and are more attractive to local birds.
Types of natives:
Most people think gums and wattles when you say Australian native, but there are also native vines, perennials, groundcover and flowering shrubs.
There are more than 600 species of wattle (Genus acacia) around the country. They’re fast growing and flower profusely, in stunning variety and intensity. With careful selection you can have a constant display of lemon to deep gold flowers from late autumn to late spring. Try acacia aneura, bancroftii, concurrens (black) melanoxylon, macradenia (zigzag), muellerina (fragrant) and conferta—all popular locals—and of course, the Brisbane wattle (acacia fimbriata).
Grevilleas and callistemons (bottlebrush) are the most popular natives in cultivation. Brisbane grevillea success stories include Ned Kelly, honey gem, misty pink, hot pink and Shirley Howie. Melaleucas, or paperbarks, love warm climates and have a huge variety of flowers. A favourite is graceful leucadendra (weeping) and the pretty diosmatifolia.
The elegant, towering gums belong in the countryside and acreage plots, particularly given the damage they do in city storms.
But some lovely native suburban garden trees include: backhousia myrtifolia, banksia integrifolia (coast banksia), bauhinia (orchid tree), Illawarra flame tree, kurrajong, buckinghamia (ivory curl), eucalyptus alba (white gum), eucalyptus curtisii (plunket mallee), eucalyptus tessellaris (Moreton Bay ash) and the eucalyptus ptychocarpa (swamp bloodwood).
What and how to plant:
Look around to see what’s growing in the neighbours’ gardens or seek advice from a local nursery on what grows best in your area.
Plant natives as soon as possible after buying in a hole twice the width and one-and-half times the depth of the pot. Add some mulch but not a different soil. Water well, three times a week— more if very hot and dry. Mulch to 10 centimetres around the base. Don’t stake natives—they’re better off moving in the wind and developing a strong trunk and root system.
Tip prune (emulating nature) about four centimetres to thicken and to encourage flowering—after flowering, or in spring and summer.
Don’t use any fertiliser with high phosphorous content. Slow-release fertilisers are best.
The Brisbane City Council has a free native plants program. Click here to visit the site.